Caritas Lebanon Leader Urges Int'l Role in Syria Relief

A new reminder of the precariousness of conditions in Lebanon because of the Syria crisis comes from the new president of Caritas Lebanon, Maronite Father Paul Karam. He urges the international community to step in to assume the responsibility of establishing and maintaining refugee camps for those fleeing the continuing violence in Syria.

"The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has reached an unsustainable threshold for Lebanon," Father Karam said, "equal to 25 to 30 percent of the population present on the national territory. The global and regional powers, instead of providing weapons to those who kill, should focus their interventions on this emergency."

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He referred to proposals from Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai in his recent speeches in Geneva. "In Syria there are large regions which are not affected by the conflict, where refugee camps can be set up or centers for aid and assistance, also in the border area between Lebanon and Syria. So, with the substantial assistance of the community and of international organizations, processes and emergencies that now seem out of control can be handled."

In recent days, UN officials have confirmed that Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon have exceeded one million. According to Father Karam, however, the actual figures are much more higher. He believes as manyas 1.5 million Syrians are now taking refuge in Lebanon. "To whom must be added the half a million Palestinian refugees," he said. "For a small country like Lebanon this number is intolerable, which puts pressure on the already fragile social system. Most of the refugees are Muslims, and this destabilizes the delicate demographic balance in Lebanon. The impact of these flows can be seen in the economic crisis, in the lack of work, in schools, in hospitals, and also with regards to security: in recent months, out of eight people arrested in Lebanon for criminal actions, eight are Syrians."

Caritas takes care of 200 thousand refugees directly and it assists 55 thousand with regards to healthcare. "But we cannot intervene when it comes to political and geo-political factors that generate the Syrian humanitarian disaster," Father Karam said. "The great leaders have to face these problems, who are all in various ways responsable of what is happening in Syria."

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